Month: December 2017

Looking Towards 2018

Barnabas 150x150

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:22-24)

You know when you take a walk on a familiar path and you give a double take and say “Oh, I never noticed that before?” That can happen while reading the Bible, too. Recently I saw something new in a very familiar passage.

In today’s passage we read about Barnabas and about people becoming believers. What’s new is to see there is a connection between us being filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, and people being brought to the Lord.

It’s easy to view coming to belief in Christ as believing the right facts and assenting to some propositions. When people assent to these propositions, perhaps by praying the sinners’ prayer or coming forward in an altar call, they are “in”. But doesn’t Jesus affect the grand totality of who we are? The facts of the gospel should not be detached from the overall change in us that Jesus does. He grabs our mind, heart, will, and emotions.

Barnabas lived as if the gospel were the most beautiful thing in the world. He must have been a joy to be around, as they called him the Encourager. When people who met him would ask him what was behind his attitude, he could reply with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.  So, Barnabas united the facts of the gospel and the life of the gospel.

Unfortunately for us, though, there can be a gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it out. Sometimes the gospel is not the most beautiful thing in the world for us.

Here is quote from Jesus:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27a)

When we ask Jesus to build that kind of love into us, knowing that we sure can’t build it on our own, the gospel in our lives becomes increasingly beautiful.  The gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it starts to disappear.

May we invite our King to live more fully in us in 2018!


An Ordinary Couple Meets an Extraordinary Baby

This week, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, I am presenting a guest post. It’s from Dig Deeper Devotions and my guest poster is my lovely wife of 35 years, Nancy.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Can you imagine Mary as she looked eagerly at the tiny bundle of flesh that Joseph held in his hands. As he placed the baby in her arms and sat beside her to look at Him, what could Joseph have been thinking? What did they expect to see?

The baby did not glow. His head was not circled by a halo. He looked like other newborns they had seen. He had ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, dark and curly hair. His red wrinkly face protested the travail He had just experienced.

Often we see idealized manger scenes, some of them fancy crystal crèches, and forget how ordinary this event looked in spite of the identity of this extraordinary baby.

Joseph and Mary knew the miraculous circumstances behind the conception: she was a virgin and had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus began kicking at Mary from the womb—gentle nudges to acknowledge His Presence and eagerness to be born—Joseph and Mary had each been visited by angels. They hadn’t spent hours picking a name: the angel told each of them that His name would be Jesus, yeshua, which meant “savior” or “Yahweh saves” (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:30-31).

The people of Israel had long anticipated a Savior, a Messiah, because God had made promises to Abraham, King David, and through the prophets. Now Joseph and Mary looked into the face of someone like them and yet not like them at all.

As you look at the tiny babe in the manger this Christmas, can you feel the awe Joseph and Mary must have felt as God broke into history to dwell with His people and be their Savior?


Read Luke 1:26-38. What else did the angel tell Mary besides the name she was to give her child?

What was the repeated promise in these OT prophecies: Isaiah 40:2; 53:6; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:25–27; Dan. 9:24; Zechariah 13:1?

Read Matthew 1:22-23 and Isaiah 7:14. What is the meaning of another title given to Jesus?

Read Exodus 19:12-25 and Hebrews 12:18-24. Why do you think the coming of God to meet his people at Mt. Sinai was so different from the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem?

Nancy J. Baker

An Ordinary Couple Meets an Extraordinary Baby For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 Can you imagine Mary as she looked eagerly at the tiny bundle…

via Mary and Joseph — Dig Deeper Devotions

Righteous and Devout?


Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. (Luke 2:25)

In this Nativity passage, Simeon is eagerly anticipating the birth of Jesus. As I read this passage, a question came to mind: what did it mean that Simeon was called righteous and devout?

For a long time, I think, I viewed that description, at best, as meaning someone who exists on a heavenly plane and is just so far above lots of the stuff that bugs us.

And at worst, it would be someone just like the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live pictured above. Someone who is just a little bit holier than everyone and quite the judge of everybody and who is just so special!

But let’s take a fresh look at what being righteous and devout might mean:

  • Someone who is genuinely humble and instead of being self-righteous, is quick to confess their sin.
  • Someone who, instead of being holier than everyone, laughs a lot, enjoys life to the fullest, and does not take themselves too seriously.
  • Someone who is heading to Christian maturity, is Spirit-filled and has the fruits of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In Luke, Simeon was looking forward to the consolation of Israel (Jesus) — and don’t we look forward to when Jesus returns and sets up his kingdom? Didn’t that hope affect Simeon’s whole life? Shouldn’t it affect ours?

Simeon had a dose of the Holy Spirit that was very rare in the Old Testament. But Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us every day. Now we get a daily taste of what righteous and devout really means…and that joyful life is nothing like being the Church Lady!

Dare to Be a Daniel?


I recently spent 2 weeks reading the book of Daniel in my personal devotions.

Daniel seems to be an unblemished Bible hero, meaning that none of his specific sins or character weaknesses are ever mentioned. At first, I thought this made the character of Daniel seem rather unreal to me. I mean, I like how the Old Testament has so many guys who are portrayed as real, warts and all. Think of David with his adultery, Jacob with his trickery, Abraham with his lying, etc.

And since Daniel is regarded as the opposite of those flawed heroes, this leads to a heroic hymn like “Dare to Be A Daniel”:

Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to vict’ry grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band. 

Reflecting on this lionhearted song, I want to first give a warning and then an encouragement. My warning is of this danger: thinking that Daniel is just a good moral example for us; we should be brave like Daniel; we should copy him. We can triumphantly be just like him; indeed, something is very wrong with us if we are not this kind of shining example.

That’s sure hard to live up to, isn’t it!

But let’s move on to the encouragement: Daniel did have sin. And he confessed it.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— (Daniel 9:20)

Now, the rare and special strength of Daniel is that he confessed his sins quickly, before they got a chance to mess him up badly. In other words, what if David had quickly confessed the sin of lusting after Bathsheba, long before drifting into adultery with her and then murder to get rid of her husband?

So, Daniel shows us that if we do get entangled in a sin, there is repentance and forgiveness for it. And as Christians we understand the source of our forgiveness and power to live well is Jesus Christ. His forgiveness is there for us even if, like David, we have messed up big time.

Daring to be a Daniel includes knowing the ways we are weak and blow it, and having a repentant heart. With a humble, Spirit-filled perspective as a starting point, we avoid simply telling ourselves and others that we need to try harder to behave better.

Amazingly, by seeing how weak we are, we can begin to draw on the power and example, not just of Daniel, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.